Review of Swimming Pools in Remote Areas of the Northern Territory
In 2009/2010, the Royal Life Saving Society – Australia carried out a review of 18 swimming pools in remote Northern Territory Indigenous communities and towns, which support a population of more than 19,000 people. The review was funded by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.
The review examined key issues of infrastructure, safety, management and usage and identified strategies for improving the operation of the swimming pools.
The report proposes that swimming pools be considered a core community service, with potential benefits that go beyond the provision of recreational swimming opportunities for community members.
There is considerable evidence about the positive effect that swimming pools have on health outcomes for Indigenous people living in remote communities. Further work is needed to quantify the social and economic benefits that most believe exist.
However, the overriding belief of participants in the study was that a coordinated response to managing swimming pools across the Northern Territory is needed. Swimming pools must be accessible, functioning and well integrated into community life to realise the potential health, social and economic benefits.
Action is recommended across the key areas of sustainability and funding, management and planning, infrastructure and social capacity.
The Department has taken a number of immediate steps to address recommendations of the report. These include:
- Funding Royal Life Saving Society - Australia a further $250,000 over two years to support pool operators in the safe management of pools through development of operational and business plans;
- Funding the Local Government Association of the Northern Territory to develop guidelines for the design and construction of swimming pools in remote areas;
- Funding the Local Government Association of the Northern Territory to work with shire councils and pool operators to address immediate safety infrastructure issues, including signage and fencing; and
- Funding the MacDonnell Shire Council $300,000 to conduct capital works at Kintore, Areyonga and Santa Teresa pools.
A Remote Pools Working Group across all spheres of government will be established to coordinate actions in response to the report’s recommendations and ensure a collaborative approach to the management and operation of swimming pools in remote Indigenous communities of the Northern Territory.
The report made 19 separate recommendations across four key areas.
Sustainability and Funding
- Governments work together with key stakeholders including community members, Shire Councils, peak bodies and non-government organisations to develop a coordinated approach to the sustainable management and safe operation of swimming pools in remote Indigenous communities across the Northern Territory.
- Shire Councils reprioritise the swimming pool as a core community service and reflect this in planning and budgetary processes.
- Territory and Federal Governments identify funding streams that encourage increased service levels, building local capacity to manage and utilise swimming pools.
- A cost benefit analysis assessing the potential social and health impact that swimming pools in remote Indigenous communities have on government expenditure is undertaken.
Management and Planning
- Governments/peak bodies work in collaboration with key stakeholders to develop templates and processes that facilitate business and operational planning in a manner that reduces barriers due to weaknesses in literacy.
- Business and operational plans be developed, implemented and monitored in each of the Shire Councils where swimming pools exist.
- Shire Councils, swimming pool owners/operators undertake annual Aquatic Facility Safety Assessments, and implement swimming pool improvement plans as part of a safety maintenance program.
- Governments fund the investigation of innovative water and energy saving technologies, community education and awareness in order to improve sustainable practice and reduce ongoing operational expenses.
- Governments facilitate the development of asset management planning systems, tools and training to enhance Shire Council abilities to manage the short, medium and long term requirements of swimming pools in remote areas.
- Funding is allocated to bring all existing swimming pools up to a designated safety standard, including safety signage, chemical storage, security, surveillance and amenities.
- Specific guidelines for the management of swimming pools in remote areas are developed.
- Specific guidelines for the design and construction of swimming pools in remote areas are developed as a high priority.
- A panel of approved suppliers of swimming pool related services be identified to ease the burden and create efficient service provision.
- Funding for swimming pools is linked to safety benchmarks, as well as commercial construction standards.
- Informal and formal networking and knowledge sharing activities be facilitated to increase focus on good practice, support positive solution making and wider Shire Council and community support for swimming pool outcomes.
- Local boards and/or service delivery groups take a greater or rigorous interest in swimming pools to their utilisation and ensure that it meets community needs.
- Community development service providers and swimming pool operators work together to utilise swimming pools in targeting and collaborating across areas such as youth outreach, education, early childhood, leadership, disability, aged care, health and wellbeing.
- Further research be undertaken into the social and economic benefits of swimming pools in remote Indigenous communities and how they can be realised, including through identification and sharing of best practice models, pilot projects and participatory research.
- Operational plans and related workforce development strategies are developed in such a way as to maximise local employment in the swimming pool. Options could include funding for mentoring programs and development of innovative employment pathway programs.
To view the full report, visit the website of Royal Life Saving Society – Australia (RLSSA).
Media release - Government funds improvements to remote NT swimming pools